Too many cases of body shaming increase body image disturbances in adolescents
Body image is the set of perceptions, thoughts and feelings about one's body. Having a realistic and positive idea reassures and gives joy, however, a negative judgment causes anxiety, sadness and frustration.
Body image disturbances are increasingly common among adolescents. The problem is socially relevant, it affects 25% of adolescents worldwide, therefore widespread information is essential, aimed at parents and teachers in order to protect their children and students.
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One of the main causes of these disorders is body shaming, a form of cyberbullying, in which the victim is criticised, insulted and attacked completely free of charge on the web or on social media. The victim is chosen by a group of cyberbullies, often anonymous, for any physical characteristic that is stigmatized: height, weight, skin or hair color.
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The coalition of executioners activates violent sadistic attacks against a chosen victim who is denigrated with the deliberate intention of undermining her safety, isolating her and destroying her psychically. The effects can be so devastating that adolescents come to feel disgust and shame for themselves, even to hate themselves and instead of reacting against their abusers, they attack themselves.
The most serious consequences are depression, anorexia and suicide. After the age of majority, due to a paradoxical reaction, a bulimic attitude shifted from food to aesthetic procedures, anorectic drugs and anabolic substances is observed. Muscles, obesity or extreme thinness become like a defensive exoskeleton.
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What to do
Body shaming can be fought, through the enhancement of differences as shared wealth, together with prevention and awareness campaigns in schools which clearly show the damage that body shaming can cause. Adolescents often don't know this, as the dynamics of body shaming and cyberbullying have their roots in the individual and group unconscious. To prevent body image disturbances in general, it is also necessary to encourage correct nutrition and encourage the culture of sport.
The role of parents
Parents must observe their children and talk to them, understand if they are cyberbullies and body shamers, take firm positions and take effective measures to stop the attacks. If, on the other hand, they notice that their children isolate themselves, cry, withdraw, are obsessed with social media, eat compulsively or suddenly lose weight, it is necessary that they immediately request the help of professionals, psychiatrists and developmental psychoanalysts.
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The code of silence
Body shaming can be fought by breaking the code of silence and the distortions of the body image disappear with a good psychoanalytic work on oneself, as it illuminates one's internal world, removes insecurities and fragility, makes one's worth known, teaches to love oneself.
Adelia Lucattini is a psychoanalyst specializing in adolescents in the Italian Psychoanalytic Society - ordinary member of the International Psychoanalytic Association